Having gambled its future on marketing Opdivo, an anticancer immunotherapeutic drug, Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. is now grapping with problems on three different fronts. "It's triple trouble," bemoaned a senior official of the firm.
The company's main concern relates to negative side effects associated with the drug. Recently, there has been a series of reports regarding serious symptoms with suspected links to the administration of Opdivo. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced Oct. 18 that six patients given the drug developed heart muscle inflammation, saying a causal relation was undeniable in half of the cases, in which one person died. The ministry also revealed instances of other side effects, though these were not fatal. According to the latest reports received by the ministry, three of the patients given the drug developed primary immune thrombocytopenia, or purpura, caused by a decrease in platelets. Rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle cells are destroyed, occurred in four of the patients.
Within Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, the appointment of Shun Sakurai as an advisor has been dubbed an "Atsushi matter," in reference to Atsushi Takahashi, who helmed the bank for 13 years as president and chairman.
Sakurai, the father of pop idol Sho Sakurai, landed the post in September, three months after retiring from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, where he served as vice minister. An executive of the bank explained that Sakurai's hiring was aimed at acquiring his input on the bank's fintech and other IT undertakings. Nonetheless, it is "unprecedented" for a former government official who supervised postal services to take up a position in the banking industry, according to a megabank source.
A company's true nature is often revealed by the way it handles trouble.
Since late September, a number of scandals have arisen at Dentsu Inc., Japan's leading advertising agency, including the overcharging of clients for digital advertising services and a ruling by a Tokyo labor standards inspection office that recognized a former Dentsu employee's suicide as "death from overwork." One of the firm's employees, meanwhile, described the company's handling of such affairs as "among the worst."
Dentsu workers often patronizingly lecture client firms about marketing and other matters, but when faced with its own problems, Dentsu itself is fundamentally ill-prepared.
Just as doubts grow over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic policies dubbed Abenomics, many say that regulatory reforms will be the only way to revive Japan's economy. However, a sense of disappointment is already spreading in many quarters over a new government panel launched in September under Abe's initiative to promote such reforms.
Abe has long vowed to destroy what he calls "bedrock regulations." Such a pledge may raise some hopes if it signals that Abe really means a departure from his heavy dependence on Bank of Japan's monetary easing to shore up share prices. But a quick look at the names of 14 members of the panel gives rise to skepticism that Abe is merely seeking to keep the stock market afloat by feigning an image of his administration willing to tackle regulatory reforms—and that he has no resolve at all to fight the rigid government regulations.
After returning to power in 2012 with his Liberal Democratic Party's victory in the 2012 election, Abe proceeded to create one advisory panel of experts to the government after another at the initiative of his Cabinet secretariat. One of them was the predecessor to the new regulatory reform panel launched last month.
In early September, the Philippines criticized China for moving to build a military base at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, identifying a large Chinese ship operating there as a dredger. Already in March, Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. Naval Operations, had expressed concerns over China's dredging work in the area, because if a man-made island complete with runways is built in the Scarborough Shoal, that would enable Chinese nuclear submarines at a naval base in the Hainan Island to move to the Pacific via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and China would be able to fly bombers from the runways for a possible strike on Taiwan.
That would mean the U.S. air and maritime superiority in the area, including the Bashi Channel—which it commanded when it sent aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait to check against China's military exercises at the time of the 1996 presidential election in Taiwan—would no longer be secure.
Shortly after starting a presentation on his "100-day plan," Seven & i Holdings President Ryuichi Isaka lavished praise on Honorary Chairman Masatoshi Ito, one of the group's founders.
"With total sales exceeding ¥10 trillion, the greatness of this gigantic group lies in the corporate philosophy that the honorary chairman has rigorously taught us," he said. "The fundamental message is that we want to be a good company, trusted by stakeholders. I believe our critical mission is to pass on this philosophy—laid down when the firm was first founded—to the next generation."
At one time, Isaka had come close to being fired, but survived to force then Seven & i Holdings Chairman Toshifumi Suzuki to vacate the position and become honorary adviser. Isaka consequently landed the presidency on May 26, 2016.
The government is alarmed that Nippon Sport Science University (Nittaidai) may yet press ahead with a visit to North Korea in defiance of repeated warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at a time when Pyongyang is aggressively conducting nuclear and missile tests.
The university appears unswayed by the government's warnings, even after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga last month leveled sharp criticism against a North Korean visit made by Antonio Inoki, a professional wrestler-turned-member of the House of Councillors. "I can't help but think the visit was extremely inappropriate," Suga said of Inoki's visit.
Japan's Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings recently announced plans to shutter its Chiba Mitsukoshi department store due to the outlet's continued poor performance. The store, which has a sales floor space of 24,700 square meters, will close on March 20, 2017. Some of the outlet's functions—such as its external sales and service section—will then be transferred to an upscale shop set to open nearby, before the Chiba Mitsukoshi store closes down completely.
"A new station building at JR Chiba Station and new in-station stores were scheduled to open in November this year, and redevelopment of Chiba's downtown area was supposed to be led by the Mitsukoshi department store, among others," said an exasperated Toshiaki Ishii, president of the Chiba Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and corporate advisor to Chiba Bank. "The decision was a real bolt from the blue; totally surprising. I want to talk directly to the officials concerned."
Waseda University Rugby Football Club is aiming to become a general incorporated association, with plans to that end currently making headway.
In August this year, Kyoto University Gangsters, an American football club, became the first university sports club in Japan to be granted incorporated status. Following the football club's designation, Waseda reportedly reached out to the team for help. "There's already an exchange of know-how and other information going on behind the scenes," a Waseda source said.
Fukui Prefecture, outraged over the government's decision last month to decommission the Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor, is making veiled threats to withdraw its approval for pluthermal power generation at Takahama Nuclear Power Station in the prefecture.
If the prefecture rescinds its approval and other prefectures with nuclear power plants follow suit, it could negatively impact the updating in 2018 of the Japan-U.S. agreement on cooperation concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy.